Welcome back to my re-read, recap, and reaction to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. This post will only have spoilers through the current chapter.
You can find my previous chapter recaps HERE.
Chapter 21: Into the Heart
Tairen nobility fills the huge chamber, with its red stone columns. All of the nobility, high and low, are arrayed around the Heart of the Stone after being summoned by Rand and await his arrival. Prior to Rand, only the High Lords came to the Heart, and they only did so for four yearly ceremonies. Moiraine arrives with Egwene and is irritated that Lan is not with her though she can feel through the bond that he is still in the city. Moiraine thinks to herself that Lan is now bound to Nynaeve just as tightly as he is bound to Moiraine, though in other ways. Moiraine does not want to give Lan up lightly and muses to herself that Nynaeve will have him when she dies, but not before.
The Tairens get out of the way of both Moiraine and Egwene, not liking Aes Sedai or the One Power, as Moiraine asks Egwene if Rand has said anything about what he plans to announce. Egwene replies that he has not said anything and she sounds to Moiraine as if she is as irritated by that as Moiraine feels. Moiraine suggests to Egwene that she bring Rand to confide in her but Egwene gives her a look to indicate she knows why Moiraine is making the suggestion, before telling her that Rand will not confide in anyone. She looks angry about this and Moiraine thinks that Egwene must also be upset over Rand strolling around the Stone kissing Elayne in secluded corners. Moiraine thinks that Egwene does not even know the half of it, yet.
Moiraine thinks that Elayne and Nynaeave are out of the way and that they may soon be able to confirm a suspicion she has about Sea Folk Windfinders, though she deems that a minor point. Moiraine also knows that Thom’s room is empty and that he muttered about Tanchico on his way out of the Stone. She is happy to have him out of the way, as well, though not because he was not helpful to Rand. She thinks Thom will help the two girls in Tanchico in any case. Moiraine personally believes the alleged plot concerning Mazrim Taim was more likely to be real that the alleged plot concerning Rand in Tanchico, so she believes all of them will be relatively safe. Moiraine’s biggest regret is that Egwene refused to go with them.
Moiraine asks Egwene if she means to continue with her plan to go into the Waste, and Egwene confirms that she does. Moiraine cannot believe that Siuan sent all of these girls out of the Tower to begin with. She comforts herself in the belief that Egwene will be out of the way, too, and that perhaps the Wise Ones might really be able to teach her something of Dreaming.
Once they reach the front of the gathering, facing an open area ahead, Moiraine watches the Tairen nobles and thinks about their various plots. She sees Lady Alteima, wearing widow’s garb though her husband is not yet dead, and thinks that Thom missed with her. Moiraine deems Alteima far more dangerous than either her husband or her lover, having been able to manipulate both without either knowing it. Moiraine thinks Alteima might be the most dangerous person in Tear, man or woman. She shifts her gaze until she finds High Lady Estanda, Alteima’s rival, and thinks that if she may be able to keep Alteima busy with Estanda, though she regrets wasting her time with these types of affairs. Moiraine regrets sending Thom away, but believes that Rand needs to depend on her counsel – hers and hers alone. She believes Thom had been settling Rand to rule in Tear rather than preparing him for greater things.
Moiraine: He has learned the first art of kings, at least – making people wait.
Egwene gives a startled look and Moiraine realizes she spoke aloud. Moiraine is worried that Rand will rish back to the Two Rivers to save it from the Whitecloaks, though she believes he cannot afford to spend time doing this. She hopes that he has not heard the rumors. She sees Mat looking unkept, though he smiles at her rudley when he notices her looking. She does not understand how Mat has so successfully avoided her spies without giving any sign that he knows they are there. Egwene comments disapprovingly that she thinks Mat sleeps in his coats, on purpose, and wonders where Perrin is. Moiraine gazes around for Perrin too before telling Egwene that Faile has been trying to talk Perrin into leaving. Egwene seems surprised that Faile might try to talk Perrin out of doing what he has to do. Moiraine muses over how she must have been blind to not realize that both Perrin and Mat were also connected to the fate of the world, as two other ta’veren the same age as Rand, and from the same village. She thinks that there is no guide as to how they are connected and no mention of companions in the Prophecies. Egwene offers that she likes Faile and says he is just what Perrin needs. Moiraine thinks though that if Faile becomes troublesome, she will have a talk with her about the secrets she is keeping from Perrin.
Just then, Rand enters, holding Callandor like a scepter, and moving imperiously through the gathered crowd. Aiel trail after Rand. As he runs his eyes across the gathering, he sees Egwene, he is surprised that she has not gone with Elayne and Nynaeve to Tanchico. He then gives Moiraine an infuriating smile, and Mat a smile that made the pair of them look like boys.
Suddenly, Rand starts making declarations. He announces that the High Lord Sunamon is in charge of signing a treaty with Mayene, and Rand laughs as he says the High Lord has guaranteed the treaty with his own life. Rand announces that if Sunamon fails, that he has agreed to be hang, and Rand says he will be obliged. Rand explains that because of the treaty, Mayener ships will carry Tairen grain west, to find new markets, rather than to the north in Cairhien where grain sales have halted due to the other nation’s civil war.
Rand next announces that the armies of Tear will march. The gathered Tairens cheer over what they believe will be an attack on Illian. Moiraine sees Egwene’s lips movin in the jubilation in quiet protest over Rand intentionally starting a war. Mat is frowning in disapproving silence, too. Rand smiles and then tells the crowd that the army is to march north to Cairhien, to distribute grain to the starving there. Rand names High Lords in charge of this venture, and Moiraine notes that he has chosen all of the High Lords who are plotting against him in Tear. She thinks Rand has Thom to thank for this information, and gives him a mental bow, but she also believes the plan is utter madness otherwise.
High Lord Meilan speaks up to say that intervening in a civil war is stepping into a bog. Rand cuts him off, though, saying that in addition to the army restoring peace and order to Cairhien, wagons will also carry some of the excess grain to feed the starving people. He chides Meilan for not wishing to extend Tear’s influence all the way to Kinslayer’s dagger and tells the gathered group that he knows who he wishes to sit on Cairhien’s Sun Throne.
Rand cows Meilan again as Egwene speaks up happily that she knew he would not start a war. Moiraine asks if she thinks there will be less killing in what Rand is doing. Moiraine cannot understand Rand’s strategy and wonders if this is Lanfear’s idea. Rand speaks up again to announce that High Lady Alteima will also travel to to Cairhien and he says she will oversee the distribution of grain. Moiraine considers this a mistake on Rand’s part, as the move will grow her base of power, but then Rand subtly threatens Alteima by announcing that he has moved her sick husband to the care of High Lady Estanda, adding that she will send her husband to Cairhein to join Alteima when he is well. Alteima faints at this news. Moiraine thinks to herself that Rand is harder and more dangerous than he had been.
Egwene: Rand just did something very clever, I think, and very cruel. He has a right to look ashamed.
Rand does seem ashamed, but Moiraine tells her that what he has done to Alteima was earned. Rand then announces that he will not be accompanying the army to Cairhien and that he will instead be going away for a time. That announcement brings silence.
Then Rand channels through Callandor and embeds it in the stone floor, driving it halfway in, and causing what feels like an earthquake inside the Stone. Moiraine and Egwene get to their feet and everyone in the room is stunned. Rand pries his hands away from Callandor and forces himself to his feet. Suddenly Rand’s voice is lighter and he tells everyone to look at the sword while he is gone. He tells them to look at it, and remember him, adding that if anyone wants to take his place, all that they have to do is draw the sword. Then he wags his finger at the crowd to warn them about the price of failure. He then marches out of the chamber with the Aiel falling in behind him.
The Tairens, Moiraine, and Egwene struggle to take their eyes off of the sword. Moiraine and Egwene hurry to catch up to Rand, half running, and when they do Rand expresses anger that Egwene did not leave for Tanchico. He tells her that she should have gone. Egwene explains that she will be going with Aviendha to Rhuidean to learn from the Wise Ones. Moiraine thinks he seems too composed and thinks of a boiling tea kettle with the lid strapped down and the spout plugged.
Rand asks Egwene quietly if she remembers swimming in the Waterwood back home. They then reminisce in turn about how much they hated the work of sheering sheep, and spinning wool. Moiraine interrupts them to ask Rand why he did that. Rand gives Moiraine a sidelong look and a smile as mocking as Mat’s before asking if he could really hang a woman for plotting to kill a man who is plotting to kill him. He asks if there would be more justice in that before questioning aloud whether there is justice in anything he does. Egwene puts a hand of comfort on his arm, but Moiraine presses him about Callandor, saying he knew what she was really asking about.
Rand then tells Moiraine that leaving the sword behind was a weight off of his shoulders, noting that she cannot understand when he looks at her expression. Rand suggests that it might help if she knows it comes from the prophecies.
Rand: “Into the Heart he thrusts his sword. Into the Heart to hold their hearts. Who draws it out shall follow after. What hand can grasp that fearful blade?” You see, straight from the prophecies.
She warns him that someone else can now take the sword and use it against him. Rand answers that he almost hopes someone will try. He explains that there is a surprise awaiting anyone who attempts to channel Callandor out of the Stone. He explains that he set a trap on Callandor so that no one will be take it out except him. He tells her that by leaving the sword there, it guarantees he can return without an army.
Rand then tells them that he is going to Rhuidean. The mention of the city generates a reaction from the Aiel. Moiraine asks why Rand needs to go to Rhuidean and wonders aloud if this decision comes from the answers he received beyond the the twisted redstone doorframe. She suggests that he might be misunderstanding the answers he received there. Rand answers that Moiraine must trust him as he has so often had to trust her.
We get a Moiraine POV chapter! There are very few of these in the series to this point, despite Moiraine’s central role to the story. Jordan really uses / needs this particular POV to demonstrate a transition in circumstances. When the series began, Moiraine was the mysterious, borderline all-knowing, larger-than-life, powerful Aes Sedai figure, with secret plans and a secret agenda. Here, she feels small. We know her schemes, but she does not know the schemes of Rand, nor can she easily control what anyone around her is doing. She is not serene, she is frazzled. Her internal musing about maneuvering Thom, Elayne, and Nynaeve away feel like small gestures. The girls were likely going to go anyway. She has no control over Egwene, Rand, Mat, and/or Perrin. The world keeps proving itself to be larger and more complex than she believed, with the Aiel Wise Ones in particular bearing that out recently. She is even losing her grip on Lan.
By presenting this change in circumstance from Moiraine’s perspective, it not only effectively makes her smaller, it also really heightens the growing sense of big-ness that the Emond’s Field folk have. Seeing them through Moiraine’s powerless and frustrated eyes helps the reader to see them in the way that the average person in their world likely sees them.
One particular thing driving the sense of Moiraine’s smallness in this chapter is the fact that she seems to need to be dragged into seeing how clever Rand is. She feels petulant, almost. When she is forced to admit that Rand has been clever, it feels like a payoff for us as the Reader, for having had to deal with her book and a half long struggle to assert control over him. That struggle is not likely over but this felt like a pretty decisive win for Rand – even if he was unaware of the fact that it happened.
It is worth pointing out that Moiraine’s reasons for trying to control Rand and the others are not bad reasons. Rand and the others really do know little of the world. Rand seems to be showing some early signs of madness at times. Yet the Emond’s Field Five seem almost to do what they want, and things just work out for them, like they are gods and goddesses among men and women. Rand in some ways now seems to know more of the world than she does, despite his inexperience, because he is himself the focal point of the world.
The visual imagery of this chapter is a lot of fun, between Rand holding court, his arrogant tone with the High Lords, the gong/earthquake. I hope that the TV series includes the little finger wag Rand does in this chapter warning others not to try taking the sword.
All in all, this is a great chapter and we are now FINALLY leaving the Stone of Tear.